Have you ever asked yourself these questions?
“What gear do I need to begin field recording?”
“What should I buy for my first mic and recorder?”
“What’s the best portable recorder value for the money?”
“What is a recommended low-budget field recorder and microphone?”
“Will this mic sound good?”
These are perhaps the most common field recording questions beginners ask. Why are they so common?
Well, they’re tough to answer. There are so many options to choose from: hand-held recorders, budget portable units, shotgun microphones, stereo rigs, and stand-alone recorders. Any of these can cost $500 or more. That’s a large investment for equipment that may or may not suit your workflow. Who knows until you try it?
These are important questions not only for people new to field recording, but also established pros looking to upgrade their arsenal of equipment.
Of course, there isn’t a single correct answer. The proper choice depends on the projects sound pros work on, the subjects they capture, and each field recordist’s approach and methodology.
It’s a tricky subject to tackle. However, I was determined to build a resource to help people learn how to choose field recording equipment. As I began writing this article, I realized that the best way to answer this question was to reach out to the pros themselves.
So, I’m incredibly excited to announce a new series that will be featured during the month of October: A Month of Field Recordists. Almost two dozen community field recordists from a wide variety of sound disciplines graciously shared their thoughts and experiences to help answer the elusive field recording question: “What gear should I use?”
Learning from Sound Pros
Who knows more about great gear than the pros themselves? After all, they have hard-won experience from years of trial and error. That’s helpful to beginners. It saves new field recordists testing time and the expense of experimenting with new gear.
I reached out a number of international community field recordists to learn their thoughts about field recording equipment. I was thrilled and humbled by the response from the community.
So, before I continue, I’d like to express my deep gratitude to each sound pro who contributed to help build a resource for the community.
The Scope of Field Recording
Now, there isn’t one perfect field recording kit. A luscious stereo microphone may not be best suited for focused Foley recording. A sturdy Deva recorder may not be helpful for “run-and-gun” recording. A student with loans may not be able to afford a $1000 kit.
Because of this, the series will feature field recordists from a broad range of professions: game audio, post-production film, clip libraries, sound sharing clubs, production sound, theatre sound, and others. They will share how their gear choices help them in their particular craft.
Not every sound pro records the same subject, either. Some focus on gun sound effects. Others capture vehicle recordings. More still gather clean clips in Foley theatres. So, the series also highlights how equipment helps gather different subjects, too.
And, of course, not every recordist works the same. I mentioned four types of field recording in an earlier article, and also in my introductory book Field Recording: From Research to Wrap. That’s why the series also looks at the methodology of sound pros: stealth recording, investigative recording, guerrilla recording, and others. Each pro comments how their gear helps them work the way the do.
And let’s not forget that people approach field recording in many ways: seasoned pros wanting to branch out from other disciplines, musicians needing source sound effects for their tunes, or people completely new to audio recording without any knowledge at all. We’re quite fortunate that the field recordists describe recording sound effects with a range of equipment, using kits from $200 to $20,000, often in surprisingly inventive ways.
About the Series
As the amount of contributing recordists grew, I quickly realized that I couldn’t pack all their wisdom into one article. So, I am highlighting (in no particular order) one recordist every day in shorter articles, for the entire month of October.
Each day will introduce a new community field recordist. They’ll describe their favourite equipment in their own words. What’s more, they’ll explain why they chose that equipment. After all, a list of specifications only helps so much when choosing new gear. So, each recordist will share valuable insight on why they chose that equipment, their opinion on the gear, and how it helps them capture the particular sound effects they record.
And each post will go beyond the theory, too. Every recordist shared samples of their work captured on their favourite kit. This helps new recordists tie together equipment selections with each pro’s approach, and the results they achieve with that gear.
Of course, every post will link to the gear manufacturer’s website so you can explore equipment as you wish. I’ll also include links to help you learn more about each field recordist and the sound effects they create.
My goal for this series to build a resource for the community to learn from the experience of sound pros capturing field recordings right now. Of course, it’s impossible to mention every field recordist working today. I’d like this resource to be a running list, with the intent of adding more to it over time. If I missed you, and you have thoughts you’d like to share, please let me know.
At the end of October, I’ll summarize all equipment mentioned, list the most popular gear, and provide quick links to each recordist. I’ll also include some thoughts on trends I’ve noticed in the community.
Finally, I’d like to express my sincere thanks to all the field recordists who took time out of their busy schedules to contribute to the community. We’re quite fortunate to learn from what amounts to essentially hundreds of years of combined professional experience.
The series begins tomorrow with an American field recordist known for his game audio work capturing elite sound effect subjects. Stay tuned!
Below is a list of all field recordists listed in the series to date:
More sound pros will be added as the series continues.